*Michelle Obama took a lot of heat for her trip to Spain last week with daughter Sasha – mostly from folks on the right who felt the expensive excursion was insensitive at a time when many Americans are struggling.
As more details of the trip emerge, it has been discovered that FLOTUS chose to visit Spain for a specific reason – to be with a good friend as she grieved the loss of her father.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet, Mrs. Obama wanted to support Chicago physician Anita Blanchard, whose father passed away earlier this summer.
Blanchard (who is married to President Obama’s best friend, Marty Nesbitt) planned a Spanish vacation with her daughter and invited the first lady and her daughters to come along. Michelle, who missed Blanchard’s father’s funeral in July, agreed and brought along 9-year-old Sasha. The first couple’s older daughter, Malia, is away at camp.
According to Sweet, one other mutual friend came along with her own two daughters. And according to the White House, all parties paid for their own hotel rooms and personal expenses.
Also, it was the Secret Service that chose to book the Obama group’s 60 rooms at the luxury Hotel Villa Padierna, in part because agents could guard the perimeter of the property much better than they could at other facilities in the area.
Just before the trip, the US State Department avoided what could’ve been an embarrassing diplomatic blunder by removing its warning to African Americans visiting the country. Officials from the Office for Consular Affairs noted that “racist prejudices could lead to the arrest of African Americans who travel to Spain.”
The office cited an incident last year in which police detained two US government employees, both of them African-American, for no apparent reason. The warning, however, was removed just days before the Obamas landed in the country.
According to the Daily Mail, some 250 Spanish officers and military personnel protected the Obamas during their stay – including police divers, bomb disposal experts and dog handlers. Also, about 70 U.S. Secret Service agents were on hand, some of them dressed as undercover tourists.